A crowd of protesters in Merced gathered across the street from Mercy Medical Center and adjacent health care clinics on Friday afternoon to protest vaccine mandates that are gaining momentum in California and across the United States.
President Biden has announced sweeping federal vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million U.S. citizens, including health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid. And, of course, California has already implemented requirements that health care workers statewide be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“To be told that the thing I have worked for, for my entire life, will be going away if I don’t do this is just heart wrenching,” a local health care worker told the Times during the protest. “Everybody should have a choice over what is put into their body. Coercion is not consent. If work requires it, you can’t retract it once you leave work.”
The gathering on Friday came about after a flier began to circulate on Facebook. Participants carried signs and waved flags along G Street while many drivers passing by honked their vehicle horns in support.
“A lot of people feel like they are alone in this,” one participant said. “But they are not alone. They are not alone in feeling threatened at work. I know of several coworkers who did not want to take the vaccine, but they said, “It’s my job, and I can’t lose my job. I guess I will have to do it.”
Along with the Merced protesters came members of the California State Militia. About two dozen members of the militia’s Echo Company, 2nd Regiment were on hand to support and defend the local citizens as they exercised their First Amendment rights. The members were unarmed, but they did wear fatigues and carried tactical gear.
Major Piper Brown said some similar protests in California have turned violent when counter-protesters turned up. There was word on Facebook that counter-protesters might also show up on Friday at the same location near Mercy Hospital, but that did not occur as of about 4:30 p.m when the Times left the scene.
Major Brown said his fellow militia members do not carry signs and are not taking a stance on the COVID-19 vaccinations. However, they do believe citizens (not subjects) have a right to choose to take it or not to take it.
“What we are upset about is being forced,” Brown told the Times. “We are losing those choices. We believe that it is a tyrannical move by the government to force this on us. People are losing their jobs because they didn’t take a vaccine. It’s their choice. It’s their own body.”
Members of the California State Militia come from all walks of life, though about half are considered former law enforcement and military members. Find out more at: castatemilitia.com.